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A.C. Sheriff Deputy shoots and kills seven abandoned dogs, drawing attention to the ongoing animal control crisis | Locals rescued two remaining dogs.

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In early September, residents of Adamana, an area outside of Holbrook, said they counted sixteen dogs; some were puppies, living at a nearby abandoned property owned by Alberth and Ashton Casillas. They regularly watched the dogs leave the property to chase after vehicles and wildlife in the area.

Residents regularly chased the dogs off their land, and in early to mid-September, Joshua Ward Jeffery with Bar H Ranch said, “I chased this pack of dogs off several times after finding them chasing and harassing our livestock.”

The pack of dogs has been aggressive to domestic animals in the community. “The dogs mauled my horse, killed my goat, regularly killed chickens and ducks on our property, chased horses, goats, and donkeys,” said Jeffery.

Jeffery explained that early on September 15, around 1 am, he awoke to his dog barking. He went outside and found a pack of dogs chasing his donkeys. There were also several dogs harassing his goats through the fence. He fired his shotgun, and he and his dog chased off the dogs. In the morning, he called and reported the abandoned dogs to Apache County dispatch and reported the incident.

According to the Apache County police report, A.C. Deputy Toadecheenie explained Ashton Casillas stated she supported the decision of the dogs being shot if needed. She provided a phone number for Alberth Casillas and said she was supposed to receive a call from an agency concerning the dogs.

On September 15, according to the police report, A.C. Deputy Toadecheenie attempted to contact Ashton Casillas concerning the dogs, and had no further contact with the Casillas and has yet to receive a call from them. The police report also states the Casillas are going through a divorce and Arizona Superior Court documents clarified the action.

“At around 1:15 pm on September 15, I spotted an Apache County Deputy in the area. The deputy was driving one road up from the Casillas property. While driving to work, I called the Sheriff’s Office and was advised that the deputy was there for another call,” said Jeffery.

On the morning of September 16, Jeffery said he found a notice that A.C. Deputy Toadecheenie left on his door. He called the A.C. Sheriff’s Office and was told to call back later. He eventually spoke with A.C. Deputy Toadecheenie and advised him of what had occurred. He gave him an incident report number and told him that other people had also reported the dogs had been abandoned.

Jeffery said, “I gave Toadecheenie the phone number to Northern Arizona Animal Search and Rescue, and he said he would call them. He stated that if Navajo County couldn’t take the dogs, and he couldn’t work something else out soon, he would be forced to shoot the dogs.”

“I informed the deputy I didn’t want the dogs shot,” said Jeffery.

Theresa Schumann from Northern Arizona Animal Search and Rescue said, “A.C. Deputy Toadecheenie did call me, and I advised him that we didn’t have space for nine dogs but would continue to look for help.”

According to the police report and Schumann, AC Deputy Toadecheenie made calls to Schumann asking for foster placement for the abandoned dogs. “I didn’t have room and couldn’t find fosters for nine dogs, we don’t have that much funding and did try,” said Schumann.

On Friday, September 22, at about 2:30 pm, Jeffery said he was working outside his property when he heard what sounded like a gunshot and looked around the side of his R.V. and saw Deputy Toadacheenie with his back to him, and then witnessed him fire two shots, shooting two of the dogs.

The body cam footage showed Deputy Toadchini entering the Casillas abandoned property and assessing the nine dogs that were noticeably emaciated. The dogs were starving and dehydrated. They had access to the underneath of a small building and an abandoned vehicle for shelter.

A.C. Deputy Toadecheenie corralled seven of the nine dogs into a fenced enclosure that existed on the Casillas property. He gave the dogs food and water inside the enclosure. The remaining two dogs ran around the enclosure, stayed back, and watched the seven dogs devour the food and water.

“On the body camera footage, the dogs didn’t seem aggressive; they were scared and starving,” said Cope Reynolds, firearm specialist. “I feel bad for the deputy, he was noticeably not in favor of what he was about to do.”

A.C. Deputy Toadecheenie is heard on the body camera footage saying, “sigh, this sucks.”

The Apache County Police report states that A.C. Deputy Toadecheenie noticed the dogs were aggressive and biting at his ankles. Upon careful review of the body cam footage, there was no noticeable aggression made by the dogs during the body camera footage. However, the abandoned dogs did injure livestock weeks prior and could become aggressive.

A.C. Deputy Toadecheenie walked outside the enclosure and secured the gate, locked the dogs inside, unholstered his duty weapon, and began shooting the seven dogs through the fence. The first five shots hit the dogs, and they fell dead quickly. The following shots were not that successful and caused the dogs to yelp loudly in pain and run around the enclosure, dying. One of the dogs took three shots to kill. 

Body cam video from the Apache County Sheriff’s Office. The video was obtained by Mountain Daily Star through FOIA. 

A.C. Deputy Toadecheenie stated in the police report he shot his duty weapon a total of 15 times and was able to recover 12 shell casings and entered them into evidence, the shot total aligned with the body camera footage. He gathered the deceased dogs into a line and was notably careful with them; he carefully loaded the dogs into his Apache County duty vehicle and then dumped them off the highway.

The order to dump the deceased dogs away from the property was given by Apache County Sergeant Bodie, according to the police report.

The two remaining dogs were left to fend for themselves, stealing food from the neighbor’s animal feed bowls and hunting wildlife. Jeffery said he left food for the two dogs.

The nearby residents called animal rescues, and Mountain Daily Star staff contacted Schumann.

Schumann said, “I didn’t know two dogs were remaining.”

In a coordinated effort with Mountain Daily Star staff, Bar H Ranch, Schumann, and Navajo County Animal Control, on 12/19, the two remaining dogs were rescued and brought to the Holbrook Animal Shelter.

A.C. Deputy Toadecheenie explained that he is submitting the report to the Apache County Attorneys to review for charges of Animal Cruelty: Neglect/Abandon (A.R.S. 13-2910. A.1) and Animal Cruelty: Cruel Mistreatment of Domestic Animal (A.R.S. 13-2910. A.14). However, to date, no criminal citations have been identified for the Casillas and their property is still abandoned.

Apache County Sheriff’s Office has no animal control resources and, in some cases, will have no choice but to use a bullet for animal control because rural Apache County doesn’t have animal shelters and lacks funding and resources.

Many abandoned dogs roam rural parts of Apache County and desperately need rescue, they have gone feral and rehabilitation might not be possible in some cases. Some are sick and injured and need help. Also, rural residents and their livestock are being harassed by hungry, abandoned dogs. Mountain Daily Star staff noticed a dog with an arrow through its belly running through a field in Apache County. The dog has been documented and is presently being tracked.

“We can’t get to them all, but try, and need help with funding so we can assist the abandoned animals in Apache County,” said Schumann.

Schumann also said that the Apache County Sheriff’s Office needs to communicate better with her and other rescuers.

“If they would just call us early on and let us help when we can, or let us evaluate a situation with them, it could save some of these animals,” said Schumann.

These issues also fall on the shoulders of Apache County Sheriff Dedman; he’s had plenty of time to fix the animal control issue. This is not the first time abandoned animals have been an issue in Apache County, its now become a crisis.

The two dogs that were rescued are being evaluated at the Holbrook Animal Shelter and have received a foster family. However, they’re on a behavioral hold. The foster family will pick up the two dogs and deliver the rest of their care if it’s possible for them to be rehabilitated. Its possible that the two dogs may never be rehabilitated and that’s the sad reality of the ongoing animal crisis in rural Apache County.

“We will do everything necessary to try and get these babies healthy and ready for foster, including medical care, spaying and neutering, and love,” said Schumann. “I’d also like to thank the Navajo County Sheriff’s Animal Control and the Holbrook Animal Shelter for trying to work with the two dogs.”

If you want to assist with abandoned and injured animals in rural Apache County, please donate or call: Northern AZ Animal Search and Rescue.

Molly K Ottman Executive Editor/Journalist for Mountain Daily Star


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